Coyote and the Winter that Never Ends
was first performed in 1997 in an elementary school in Wetaskiwin, Alberta,
Canada, and in a primary school in Cardiff, Wales.
In 2000 we revised it, building on the experience we had in the intervening
operas. The new version envisaged an adult singing the main animal role of
Bear, and included a new aria especially written for the British tenor John
Mitchinson, who took the role in the premiere of the new version. Although
this role could possibly be taken by a child, it is now more suited to an
The revision of Coyote and the Winter that Never Ends was first performed at the Performing Arts Centre,
Leduc, Alberta on March 20-24, 2001, starring John Mitchinson, tenor,
with adults from Alberta, Wales, and the USA, and children from Wetaskiwin, Leduc, Stettler,
and surrounding areas in Alberta,
conducted by Janice Tole.
Winter will not end. It keeps
snowing. It remains cold. Spring never seems to come.
The animals are gathered together to complain and to see what they can do
about it . Bear suggests they call on the sun to shine. Everyone calls out
to the sun to shine. Nothing happens. Owl suggests they call on the snow to
melt. Nothing happens. Mountain Goat suggests they call on the cold to put
on a warm coat. Nothing happens. Deer suggests they call on the wind to send
a warm wind. Nothing happens. Owl then suggests that they are not loud
enough - why not ask those creatures over there (the audience) to help? The
audience join in. Still nothing happens. There is general despair.
Meanwhile, the humans are also suffering - specifically, the family of Ma
Murray, a hill-billy family (jeans and straw-hats) with four children, the
youngest of whom, Mirelda, is not liked by the others, and is made to do all
the work.[The family are played by teachers, except Mirelda]. The firewood
has all gone; the furniture has been burnt up; and Mirelda let the fire go
out - they have used up all their matches. All they have to eat is cold
beans out of a can. The children complain. Ma Murray tells them they must do
as they are told, and that they must go and tidy their rooms. Mirelda thinks
something must be done about this, and wonders what her father would have
said - listen to what the wind has to say. She does so, but all she hears is
Coyote's voice calling on the cold wind. Suddenly she realizes she could ask
Coyote - he always knows about things. She determines to sneak out and find.
As she leaves, Ma Murray sees her going, and thinks Mirelda must be up to
something. Ma Murray calls the other children so that they can all follow
and see what she is up to.
Mirelda arrives at the gathering of the animals, and suggests to them that
consult Coyote. There is general hilarity; Coyote is something of a joker
figure. However, a number of them - even Frog - remember the sensible advice
that Coyote has given them in the past. In the meantime, Ma Murray and the
family creep in behind to try and hear what is going on. Bee notices Ma
Murray, and while Mirelda leaves to find Coyote, and Owl keeps talking, she
quietly comes up behind the human and stings her with a hair-pin. The Murray
family hastily retreat, believing that Mirelda and the animals have a
conspiracy to keep winter going.
As the Murray family retreat, the animals see coyote coming. Coyote enters,
followed by Mirelda. Bear and the other animals explain the problem, though
Coyote seems more interested in finding chocolates in the audience. Owl
finally gets exasperated, and demands that Coyote tell them whether he knows
how to end winter. Coyote replies that he does - they must find the rainbow.
Most of the animals think this is a hopeless answer, but then Coyote
explains that if the rainbow is found, there can't be cold (because the sun
is shining) and there can't be snow (because rainbows need rain, and if it's
raining, it can't be snowing. He then says that the animals have to find
each individual colour of the rainbow and put them together. They will find
them because they have the scent of spring. The solo animals volunteer.
The humans sneak back at this point. They are now very suspicious, as Coyote
tells each solo animal in which direction to go. They themselves split up to
try and keep track of each animal.
One by one, each animal finds a long paper streamer of the appropriate
colour, rolled up. In some cases, they need help from Coyote and Mirelda.
When they have found their streamer, they bring it back to the assembly of
animals, where it is hung, so that the rainbow is gradually created. As the
last streamer of the rainbow is hung, to cheers from the chorus, the air
gets warmer and winter starts to end. Ma Murray appears, with her family,
Mirelda with them. She is brandishing a large pair of scissors with which to
cut the rainbow. Bear and company stand in the way to stop her, but she
threatens to cut off Mirelda's braids if they don't move.
There is a quick consultation among the animals, and they Ma Murray through.
She cuts the first of the strands. The sun goes in (lights dim). She cuts
the second strand. The wind gets up and everyone starts freezing.
Jeptha, the eldest Murray child, realizes what is happening, and manages to
stop Ma Murray. The humans finally understand. But how to repair the
All assembled call on Coyote. He calls for Spider, who weaves the two cut
strands together. The wind ceases, and the sun shines again.
There is general rejoicing, and the chorus sing of the Spring that is